TUTS takes us to 42nd Street

The 2018 season of Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is now open with 42nd Street alternating nights at Malkin Bowl, in Stanley Park with Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

The company of 42nd Street
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Directed by Robert McQueen, 42nd Street is a show within a show jukebox musical that takes us back to 1930s Broadway.  A familiar selection of standards and showtunes are (very) loosely strung together by a behind-the-scenes story of the production of a Broadway show. The tried and true story of the small town girl looking to break into showbiz, follows fresh off the train Peggy Sawyer (Paige Fraser) making her way into the new Broadway musical, the show within the show, Pretty Lady. Acclaimed director Julian Marsh (Andrew Cownden) needs a hit to recover from his Stock Market Crash losses, star Dorothy Brock (Janet Gigliotti) needs to prove she’s not past her prime, even though she’s still very good at playing the diva in real life.

Paige Fraser (Peggy), Blake Sartin (Billy Lawlor)
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Along the way Dorothy is juggling paramours, then breaks her foot, Tenor Billy Lawlor is hoping to date Peggy, who is fired, hired, fired and rehired by Julian during the course of 42nd Street.
While the story is familiar and predictable, the cast is likeable and makes the most of the, schmaltzy, depression-era dialogue. Fraser and Gigliotti each deliver strong vocals and are perfectly paired on their duet About A Quarter To Nine.  Cownden performs with a single-minded toughness like he’s stepped right out of a gangster film,  but manages to make Marsh endearing.

Blake Sartin (Billy Lawlor, left) with the cast of 42nd Street
photo: Lindsay Elliott

The show really comes to life in the brilliantly choreographed, by Shelley Stewart Hunt, production numbers.  With up to 30 cast members onstage lending a Busby Berkley-esque feel to the tap routines, the cacophony of the taps beating a rhythm to the catchy tunes, like We’re In The Money, Lullaby of Broadway, and 42nd Street, really lift the excitement of the show.

The tap dancers onstage won’t be the only ones with their feet in motion, the production will leave you tapping and humming along throughout your journey to 42nd Street at Theatre Under The Stars.
42nd Street runs until August 17, 2018 at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. Find tickets online at tuts.ca.

TUTS opens with a new Cinderella

The 2018 season of Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is now open with Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella alternating nights at Malkin Bowl, in Stanley Park with 42nd Street.

Mallory James as Ella
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella brings the familiar story to the stage, with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, written for the 2013 Broadway production. Without taking away from the classic, the updated book freshens the story, making Cinderella a more independent young woman, interested in the world and others around her. Marrying a prince for the sake of status has moved further down the list of benefits.  The book and Sarah Rodgers’ direction play up some of the traditional plot points for humour and to make a point about the modernization of the story.

As Ella, Mallory James brings a hopeful innocence and fine singing voice to the character’s dialogue and songs, and thanks to newly introduced character of Jean-Michel, a worldly rabble rouser, set on bringing change to the authoritarian reign of the regent. In another change from the usual story, one of the step-sisters, Gabrielle, is kinder to Ella and secretly in love with Jean-Michel.

Caitlin Clugston (Madame), Mallory James (Ella), Amanda
Lourenco (Charlotte), Vanessa Merenda (Gabrielle)
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Of course, Cinderella wouldn’t be complete without a villain, Caitlin Clugston as Madame, Ella’s stepmother, brilliantly bites into the role with her wicked digs aimed at keeping Ella in her place with a flourish of maniacal laughter thrown in for good measure.  Laura Cowan’s Fairy Godmother balances the wickedness with a sweet performance Disney would have approved.  In contrast to James’ traditional vocals, Cotten has a more contemporary, pop delivery, and while he charms the audience it doesn’t quite feel like he charms Ella, leaving the romance a bit flat.  Amanda Lourenco as the vapid, clumsy stepsister Charlotte, and Caleb Lagayan’s Lord Pinkleton, bring a stand-out note of comedy to their roles.

Tré Cotten(Topher) & Mallory James(Ella)
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Choreographer Nicol Spinola makes excellent use of the TUTS stage to create the grand scale of all the court coming together for The Ball and set designer Brian Ball simple design creates a castle, town, forest, and Ella’s home inside and out, as much onstage as in our imaginations.  Costumes and props make a couple odd choices that seem to stand out, awkwardly.  Asian-style red paper lanterns appear during royal celebrations.  Prince Topher wears a dashiki for formal occasions, and gives a “Black Panther” style salut to the crowd, which feel like they’re jumping on the Marvel film’s bandwagon rather than highlighting the diversity of the players.

Those very minor quibbles do little to take away from the two hours of fun, and enjoyment presented by Theatre Under The Stars.
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella runs until August 18, 2018 at Malkin Bowl. Find tickets online at tuts.ca

There’s more than just Shakespeare at Bard on the Beach

Last night Chor Leoni’s Mane Event at Bard on the Beach filled the mainstage tent with the sounds of music.

The perfect way to wrap up the Canada Day weekend, the Lions brought to stage a varied selection of songs including a taste of Canadiana including iconic hits by Tragically Hip,  Ian & Sylvia Tyson along with Quebecois and Maritime folk faves and the touching Gimikwenden Ina from the Indigenous musical Children of God. In the second act, the men of Chor Leoni really let loose and ramp up the fun with the pop and Broadway hits.  Rob McAllister’s colourful costumes add to the comedic flare pop and Broadway hits.  Even Bollywood makes a showing too, really highlighting Ariana Barer’s choreography. Meghan Trainor’s Me Too, a Lady Gaga/Madonna mash-up Born To Express Yourself This Way, and Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling brings out the Trolls (not the internet type), to wrap up the feel good show.

This year’s Mane Event was the 25th and final Chor Leoni show at Bard on the Beach but it is just one of the many special events Bard on the Beach hosts each summer.  In addition to the plays in repertoire; Macbeth, As You Like It, Timon of Athens & Lysistrata, this year also features;

Bard-B-Q & Fireworks July 28, August 1 & 4 | 5:30pm & 6pm*
See As You Like It or Timon of Athens* followed by a salmon barbecue from Emelle’s Catering. Visit the PIXSTAR Photobooth, take in the award-winning Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band and more, before enjoying a private view of the spectacular Celebration of Light fireworks.

 Family Nights July 24 & August 21 | 6pm
A perfect night for the whole family! Geared for ages 6 and up, this special evening is filled with family-friendly activities. Arrive at the Village early for the PIXSTAR Photobooth, face painting, food truck, an exclusive pre-show talk designed just for kids and more. Then enjoy a performance of the Bard/Beatles musical-comedy mash-up As You Like It. 

Operas & Arias: Bold and Beautiful August 27 & September 3 | 2pm & 7:30pm (both days)
Join the UBC Opera Ensemble and members of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra for a costumed concert performance. Drawn from a set of best-loved operas, the programme will include favourite selections from La TraviataLa BohèmeDie Fledermausand more. Bard Artistic Director Christopher Gaze hosts all performances, presented on the BMO Mainstage. 

For more information on these and all the other special events, education and speakers at Bard On The Beach visit bardonthebeach.org/special-events

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Once On This Island The Musical on Granville Island

“The Godsquad” L-R: Yoo Ra Kang, Ricardo Pequenino, Alexandra Quispe, Sari Rosofsky
Photo: Tina Clelland

From Broadway to Granville Island, Once On This Island is now playing at Red Gate Review Stage.  The award winning musical, currently in a revival on Broadway, is making its Vancouver debut with Fabulist Theatre.

With book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and, music by Stephen Flaherty, Once On This Island is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love: or, The Peasant Girl.  Based in the French Antilles, the story is a tropical take on The Little Mermaid with a touch of Romeo and Juliet added to the tale.

Once On This Island: Michael Gnansounou and Brianna Clark
Photo: Tina Clellan

Once On This Island tells the story orphan peasant girl Ti Mourne, one of the villagers who worship the island’s four gods; earth, water, love & death. The gods are looked upon for guidance while they control life, love and death.  On the other side of the island the wealthy French grands hommes look down upon the peasants but Ti Mourne finds love and plans to unite the island with her love of Daniel Beauxhomme, the son of a grands homme who crashes his car near Ti Mourne’s village during a rainstorm.

A lively score and a mix of energetic and soulful island ballads fill the musical with a tropical feeling.  In this ambitious Fabulist Theatre production, directed by Damon Bradley Jang, has cast Brianna Clark as Ti Mourne.  The high school student is a standout amongst the large cast, possessing a charismatic, lovely voice and lights up the stage with her smile. In his stage debut, Michael Gnansounou makes a charming leading man as Daniel Beauxhomme.

The limitations of the smaller review stage created congestion onstage with the sets and large cast taking up precious space, resulting in ensemble members bumping into each other during the dance numbers and some rather clumsy looking scenery changes.  The size of the theatre also plays a hand in some of the other technical issues, the band sounds amazing but overwhelms the vocals a number of times, making the story hard to follow.  A few actors’ microphones slipped out of place as well making them only audible for those nearby.  In spite of those technical difficulties, which will surely be worked out over the run of the show, Fabulist Theatre presents an uplifting, sunny look at culture clashes, diversity, love and death.

Fabulist Theatre’s Once On This Island plays at the Red Gate Review Stage April 12, 13 & 14, 2018.  Tickets are available on brownpapertickets.com.

Fabulist Theatre brings Once On This Island to Vancouver

Fabulist Theatre, a local company known for diverse casting of its shows, is bringing Once On This Island to Vancouver this Spring.  This is the first Vancouver production of Once On This Island, a revival is currently playing on Broadway at Circle In The Square Theatre.

“The Godsquad” L-R: Yoo Ra Kang, Ricardo Pequenino, Alexandra Quispe, Sari Rosofsky
Photo: Tina Clelland

Based on the 1985 novel “My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl” by Rosa Guy, Once On This Island is a one-act musical, set in the French Antilles.  With elements of Romeo & Juliet and a magical touch of The Little Mermaid, the musical tells the story of Ti Moune, an orphaned local girl, who, with a little help of the Island’s local Gods, uses the power of love to bring together the island’s different classes.

In casting this production, director Damon Bradley Jang drew from Vancouver’s diverse talent pool to find his actors. Jang says “we wanted to cast based on the culturally diverse community of performers who make up Greater Vancouver and might otherwise be underrepresented in the city. We fully acknowledge that the story is a largely set in Haiti but we wanted to use the story as a platform to address the more universal themes of love, death, and social prejudice. In the agreement, the writers have stipulated that the show can be done with a multi ethnic cast as long as these themes are presented.

Michael Gnansounou and Brianna Clark
Photo: Tina Clellan

Traditionally, the show focuses heavily on the division of class indicated by paleness of skin.  The native islander ‘peasants’ were  darker skinned and the French “Grand hommes” were lighter skinned.  However, in our version, our Ti Moune (Brianna Clark) is ‘pale skin’ in comparison to our Daniel (Michael Gnansounou) who is ‘darker skin’ which is a bit of a nontraditional casting choice.”

Fabulist Theatre presents Once On This Island at the Redgate Revue Stage on Granville Island,  from April 6th to 14th, 2018.  Tickets are available now online at brownpapertickets.com

Picks of the Week – February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s lovebirds! This week Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year Celebrations offer plenty to get you out of the house, the picks of the week will help to sort out what’s on.

Chocolate: Perfect for your after dinner chocolate craving, the Hot Chocolate Festival wraps up tonight.

Romance:  Romance week at Vancouver TheatreSports League wraps up tonight but the laughter never ends at the Improv Centre.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks take to the ice twice this week; tonight vs Florida then again on Saturday against Boston.

Jabberwocky
photo: Jason Strang

Cultures:  The Cultch York Theatre has Jabberwocky, a dark puppet work inspired by Lewis Carroll, while at the Vancity Culture Lab features No Foreigners a multimedia presentation on race and home, both shows running until February 17th

Rock: Thursday night Cincinnati based rock act Walk the Moon take to the stage at the Vogue Theatre

Elle & Warner
photo: Anita Alberto Photography

Musical:  Learn to bend and snap as Align Entertainment brings the award winning, bubbly Legally Blonde the Musical to the stage at Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th

Pop: Friday night, see what the buzz is about when English songstress Dua Lipa takes to the Vogue Theatre stage.

Exhibition: The Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

Next: West Moon Theatre has dual casts tackling the Pulitzer prize winning musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 from tonight until February 17th

Lunar: Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dog Lunar Fest at Oakridge Centre and the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza through the new year.

Dragon:  At Fly Over Canada it’s a Lunar New Year double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, only until February 18th.

Moon: The Canadian Classic play, Salt-Water Moon, comes to the Gateway Theatre from February 15 – 24

Theatre: The Arts Club has the backstage antics of Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and the Tony award winning Fun Home at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Jazz: Sunday night, the Chan Centre welcomes South African Jazz legends The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard 

 

 

Next To Normal tackles mental illness

West Moon Theatre is presenting the award-winning rock musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 Theatre until February 17th.

In a unique turn, this production is double cast with two separate casts taking on the challenging musical’s heavy content and numbers.  The double cast allows for two interpretations of the characters and brings a different dynamic to the alternate performances.  The performance I had the privilege of seeing was the opening night for Cast A.  Director Chris Lam has noted that the expanded cast promotes diverse casting and representation, as the younger cast of many recent graduates have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals.

Next To Normal looks at a family with a mother with Bipolar Disorder and the fall out that her mental illness has on the rest of her family.  Diana (played in Cast A by Marie West) is consumed by her illness and with the support of husband Dan, (Mark Wolf) tries various treatments to find a ‘normal’ life.  Daughter Natalie (Katrina Teitz) overachieves in hopes of attaining her mother and father’s recognition but Diana’s illness, and her brother Gabe, who seemingly can do no wrong, always seems to take their attention from her.  As Diana and the family battle the ups and down of her illness the audience can’t help but have a sense of anxiety too in the unknown that lays ahead for them.

A musical as well known as Next To Normal and the award-winning performances of the original Broadway casts, puts a lot of pressure on the cast to make their own mark on the characters.  Chris Lam’s direction strips the play to its bare bones, focusing on the characters and exposing their flaws and fears.  In the intimate space of Studio 16, and with the very stripped down staging, the audience is so close to the action it feels like they’re sitting in the kitchen with the family.

The small orchestra is also onstage with the players, at first a worry that the music would overtake the acting but the instrument volume was just right.  While there was some audio technical issues during the second act, one speaker wasn’t working well, making the audio slightly difficult to hear at times, the cast put their hearts into their vocals. Marie West tears into the songs, tackling the Tony Award winning role with all her might but at times her vocals were difficult to distinguish on the polyphonic numbers.  Mark Wolf’s voice stood out with the perfect level to fill, but not overpower, the small room. Wolf and Blake Sartin (playing Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend) harmonize perfectly in their answer to each other on “A Promise’.  Katrina Teitz was a bit pitchy but her characterization of the put-upon Natalie showed her potential for the future.  Having seen Daren Dyhengco, who like Teitz is a grad of Capilano U Theatre program, only in the dramedy The Day Before Christmas, I wasn’t sure how he would carry the heavier message and cornerstone songs of Next To Normal but he too showed great lead actor potential.

West Moon Theatre’s Next To Normal runs at Studio 16, 1555 W 7th Ave, until February 17, 2018.
Tickets are available online at nexttonormalvan.brownpapertickets.com